Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats


as the fashion of the tonsure, the baptismal ceremony, and the
date of Easter), which led to bitter controversies when at a later
time the Celtic and the Roman churches came into touch with
each other once more.

The difference, however, went much deeper than mere questions
of ritual.   The spirit of the two Churches was different, and in ,
no respect more so than in matters of culture.   In conflict with the
ancient heathenism of the Druids, the Irish Christians had been
deeply influenced by the learning of their opponents.   In pre-
Christian times education had flourished in Ireland as in other
Celtic countries.   Caesar tells us that in Gaul in his time there
were schools of higher learning under Druid teachers which were
attended by large numbers of the young nobles ; and presumably
there were similar schools in Ireland.    In the change from
heathenism to Christianity this tradition was maintained.   Not
only did secular schools under lay teachers continue to exist
alongside the Church schools, but the monks who displaced the
Druids as the religious guides of the people appear to have
adopted their cultural interests  and  their educational  work,
As an illustration of the persistence of the old learning may be
mentioned the fact that in one locality (Tuam-Drecain) there
were no fewer than three schools in the Seventh Century:   a
school of Latin and Christian letters, a school of Irish law, and
a school of Irish literature.   This seems to have been in no way
an uncommon case.   If further proof is needed, it is to be found
in the existence of great monastic schools in various parts of the
country, which were attended not only by the Irish themselves,
but by large numbers of scholars from Britain and the Continent.
Tradition credits St. Finnen, St. Brendan and St. Comball, the
three fathers of the Irish Church, with an attendance of three
thousand students in their respective monasteries at Clonard,
Clonfert and Bangor.    This extraordinary figure is rendered
credible by the statement of Bede that the monastery at Bangor
(in Wales) consisted of seven sections, each with upwards of
three hundred students.    Besides these great establishments,
there were a great many smaller ones like that of St. Gobi at
Glasnevin with its fifty students, which shared in the general
enthusiasm for education.

The character of the learning which was imparted in these
monastic schools is not exactly known.    Probably theology